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Media Training for Perfect Pitch

  August 17, 2016

Is your media pitch less than perfect?  There’s media training for that.   

No one knows your business better than you. When you talk to friends about your products, services or expertise, you are enthusiastic and they are very receptive.
When you pitch yourself to the media as an expert in your field or pitch a story idea, you’ll have to work a lot harder to get a positive response.

Newsrooms are very busy, noisy environments and everyone is multi-tasking. The assignment editor who picks up the phone may be watching 4 TV monitors and writing an email while you’re talking. These broadcast journalists have short attention spans. I know--I was one of them for many years.

Don’t do your usual multi-tasking during your call.  Concentrate on just your pitch. Make sure you are not distracted by a noisy environment and don’t call while you are driving.

It is vital that you practice your 30 second  media pitch and perfect it before placing a call to any newsroom.  Successful business people have perfected their 30 second elevator pitch. Do the same thing with your media pitch. 

You must quickly explain why your story will matter to their viewers, listeners or readers.  It is not enough to say you are holding a news conference to unveil your super-duper new product or service.  You are selling your story to the first of many gatekeepers during this initial conversation.

Here are some typical responses you may get from a TV News Assignment Editor:

  • We covered something like this already. It’s too soon to do another report.
  • We don’t have a crew available.
  • Why would our audience care about this?
  • Just send us the release. Send it again.
  • We’re busy covering breaking news.

Be prepared to explain how your story/event is unique. If they do not have a video crew available, you can videotape it yourself and share it with them.  Even if you have sent your news release several times, do it again immediately to the attention of the person who are speaking to.  If they are covering breaking news, simply say you will call back at a better time.

Often a caller will ask if the newsroom has received his or her news release. The truth is newsrooms get so many news releases, that the person you reach may have no idea if yours has arrived or not. So don’t waste your valuable first 30 seconds with that. Get to the pitch itself. You can always resend the release later.

It is important to be persistent when pitching to the media. Don’t be afraid to call more than one person at a media outlet.  If the AM Assignment Editor passes, perhaps a Weekend Assignment Editor may bite. 

One warning about persistence: don’t pick a fight and try to browbeat them into covering your event.  I encountered several overly pushy PR reps when I was on the receiving end of pitches at CNN.  Their approach didn’t work on me.  Whether you are doing your own pitching or leaving that to a public relations expert, the tone as well as the timing needs to be right. 

Remember that newscast producers and assignment editors are the gatekeepers who could just keep you from the media attention you feel you deserve. So don’t burn any bridges. If you encounter a true jerk, just call back during a different shift so you’ll reach a fresh listener.  

If you have called at a good time and make a good connection, fill in some color (details) in the next 30 seconds to 1 minute of your conversation.  Hopefully you have triggered some interest and you’ll be asked questions. Flesh it out but do not ramble.  That’s when people begin to tune you out. 

I have said it before and it is worth repeating--the worst time to call is during breaking news. So switch on a TV and check the media outlet’s website to see if anything big is breaking before you pick up the phone. It’s also not a good idea to call right before a regularly scheduled newscast. Everyone is on deadline and won’t want to hear about something to cover tomorrow, or next week.

If you send a hard copy media kit, make sure it is an attention grabber. Here is a sample of the items attached to media kits and news releases I’ve seen: Mylar balloons, cookies, a Christmas ornament, mini Christmas tree, t-shirts, a shoe, and flowers. Never send anything expensive. And remember these gimmicks will not guarantee media coverage. The best you could hope for is that your splashy delivery gets at least one person in the newsroom to read your news release and go through your media kit.

The majority of media (or press) kits are now electronic and most news releases will not be hand delivered or mailed to newsrooms. They’ll come via email or wire service. It is more important than ever that your copy is well written and your contact list is accurate.   Do not attach your news release to an email; write it in the body of your email. 

Social media is a good way to connect with reporters in your area.   I see Facebook posts and tweets from journalists all the time asking for experts on various topics.  You might be just what they are looking for. 

The bottom line is journalists get their story ideas from many sources.  It could be from your news release, your call, or your social media post.   

5 Fast media training tips to get you pitch ready 

  1. Rehearse your 30 second media pitch.  Don't just wing it.
  2. Have a good answer to the “who cares?” question. 
  3. Focus during your pitch call (no multi-tasking). 
  4. Use social media to reach traditional media.
  5. Realize that breaking news trumps everything.  

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